Psychological theory (or at least this TedTalk) states that we push ourselves further than we would normally push ourselves when there’s someone next to us. Yes. Absolutely. I agree.
This vein of theory outlines the idea that if we measure ourselves off what someone else is doing, we’ll be measuring our success on a win-lose basis. If I am better than this person I win. If they are better than me, I lose. It can be healthy to be pushed, but if we fall into the pit of wishing our teammates well, but not wanting them to be better than us we’re detracting from the team.
I laughed guiltily when the TedTalk outlined the phenomenon because I used to expend way too much energy buying into the me vs you mindset.
Before my Junior year, I decided that I was going to be good at rowing. Not just good, I wanted to be The Best. I trained hard all summer and when I came back for the fall season I was ready to crown myself queen of the boathouse.
Of course my plans were foiled when one of the sophomores started to excel on varsity. She is such a talented athlete and hard worker that she soon matched me on the erg and then quickly surpassed me. She this girl is the the nicest, most humble, down to earth person I’ve ever met, which made it even more difficult for me to stay bitter. I did it though. I wanted her to do well, but not better than me…I wanted to be the best! I was supposed to be the queen!
Even at the time I knew I was being a little b*tch, but I had a hard time wishing her well because I thought that if she was succeeding I was failing. At the end of the season we spent 3 months together and bonded over 2 cross country road trips, a European adventure, a 300k a week training plan and New Jersey weather. I’ve gotten to know her so well it’s funny and embarrassing that I used to be threatened by her. She’s my favorite person to row a pair, have deep life talks and travel with. I value her so much and I know that I am a better rower and person because she’s my teammate.
I think of her like Kanye thinks of Drake. Kanye knows that Drake is always grinding: releasing fire albums, getting his songs on the charts. Kanye knows that if he just sits there dicking around he’s going to become obsolete. He uses Drake to push him, but knows that Drake’s success doesn’t define him. Kanye is Kanye, Drake is Drake.
When I was able to see the strengths my teammate brought to the table and realize that our success was tied together I could enjoy rowing so much more. Being individuals helped us succeed as a unit. Watching her do well forces me to do well not to beat her, but to be worthy of being her pair partner.
At the end of the day, Drake is Drake, Kanye is Kanye, my teammate is teammate and I am me. Our successes don’t hinge on other people’s failure. We control that all on our own.